More than 100 faculty members across the University of California are signing up to participate in a $10 million program that would create 150 for-credit online courses for the UC.
Over the next three years, the Innovative Learning Technology Initiative program will pay UC faculty to establish online courses that will count for credit in a variety of disciplines on at least two UC campuses. The goal of the program is to expand course options to students from all UC campuses, said Ellen Osmundson, the project coordinator for the program.
The program began in March, and opened its application process to faculty members in mid-June. Nearly 120 UC faculty have already expressed interest in the program. The UC hopes to have enough professors approved to develop 150 online courses by 2016.
“The logic of this program involves reducing backlog to classes and moving students through the system,” said Jan Reiff, vice chair of the UCLA Academic Senate, which is in charge of implementing the program. “The idea is to help students get their courses in time.”
Although UCLA already offers some online courses, the program will add a wider selection of year-round courses that will fulfill more requirements, Reiff said.
UC faculty will develop the actual courses for the program and apply to have their online course produced for multiple UC campuses.
If a professor’s application is approved, the program will fund the course and pay the professor to compensate the time needed to create a quality course.
The amount of funding a professor will receive depends on many factors, including the type of the course, student demand and features of the course, Osmundson said.
Online courses created by the program will be offered for at least two UC campuses. The process of making an online course for the entire UC will take more time, Reiff said.
“We could have more online courses for all UC campuses (in the future).” Reiff said. “But we are still in the experimental phase.
Roughly $5 million will go to develop the online courses and about $3 million will fund an online database for UC students to look for the courses to see if their respective campus offers credit for the class. Up to $2 million will go toward UC staff that will help faculty integrate these courses into UC campuses.
Ronald Mellor, a history professor at UCLA who is teaching a History 20 online course, said he is skeptical of the program’s future to deliver quality courses for the UC, especially for UCLA.
Currently, creating an online class requires UC faculty to work with their respective department, Osmundson said.
The department pays for the process while faculty members decidehow to teach the class, Mellor said.
Mellor said he thinks there could be a problematic issue for education if there is not enough emphasis on making quality courses. For instance, recording a lecture that has no interaction with students is ineffective.
“We need to make sure that (the program) courses are done in a way that is consistent with (UCLA) academic teaching standards,” Mellor said. “I think people are too hasty in thinking online classes can solve our problems.”
Mellor added that he would be interested in expanding his course, but said it would be a challenge to apply his six-week summer course to a quarter at UCLA or a semester at other campuses.
The summer online classes at UCLA, which are primarily managed by the Office of Instructional Development, already create online courses with high education value, said William Roy, a sociology professor who is teaching introductory sociology in an online class.
The School of Theater, Film and Television offers 11 online courses this summer at UCLA, more than any other department.
Roy said he thinks there is a potential that the UC program courses could take away from already established online courses at UCLA. A program online course developed at another UC campus may teach the same material as an online class developed only for UCLA.
The program, however, should only add more options for students, Osmundson said.
“The intent is not to take away from courses already offered online,” Osmundson said. “We really don’t know what the dynamic will look like in the future.”